Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, recently completed a 10-day ministry in the Pacific Area, which included devotionals held with Latter-day Saints of all ages and broadcasts spanning New Zealand and Australia.
“I feel like I am at home, among friends,” said Elder Soares of his stops in Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand, and Brisbane and Sydney, Australia. “My wife and I have loved this experience.”
Accompanying the Soareses were Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Marcia Nielson. The Nielsons, enjoying a homecoming of sorts after having served in the Pacific Area more than a dozen years ago, also traveled to Adelaide, Australia, to conduct a May 26 young adult devotional.
The members of the Pacific Area presidency and their wives — Elder Ian S. Ardern and Sister Paula Ardern, Elder K. Brett Nattress and Sister Shawna Nattress, and Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita and Sister Tazuko Yamashita — participated in the meetings and visits.
On Saturday, May 21, more than 1,000 teens attended a youth devotional in Auckland, which was broadcast to youth in meetinghouses across New Zealand and Australia and made available for viewing later to youth across the Pacific Islands.
At the devotional, Elder Soares told of a tragic airplane crash in the Northern mountains of Brazil, close to the city of Fortaleza, where the pilot failed to heed warnings about flying below the cleared altitude and instead relied on his own expertise. The Apostle likened the experience to the opportunity that each person has — to listen to warnings from God’s prophets to avoid life’s dangers.
“Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thy heart. The Lord is the best source to help us fly at the right altitude,” said Elder Soares, who offered a blessing on youth of New Zealand and Australia to “have the courage to represent Jesus Christ.”
The leaders and their wives participated in a question-and-answer-session, with questions about how to know one’s true identity, how to know if God is really there, how to learn more about and follow Jesus Christ, and how to let their light shine before their families, members and friends.
On Sunday morning, May 21, the visiting leaders participated in a special multi-stake conference in Auckland that was broadcast to all meetinghouses across New Zealand.
“Walking in the light of the Savior, Jesus Christ, prevents us from walking in darkness, because darkness and light cannot walk together,” said Elder Soares, who encouraged listeners to study the messages of living prophets, “starting with a study of President Russell M. Nelson. We can see modern miracles in our lives when we follow the Prophet.”
Following the prophets is representative of one’s faith and testimony, he added. “It shows the measure of our conversion and our testimony.”
Sister Soares explained that as a first-generation Latter-day Saint, she had never experienced scripture study and family prayer. When she and her husband married, the couple created their own traditions of studying and pondering the scriptures to “hear God’s voice, know His words and come to know Him better,” she said, adding, “The scriptures are a book of answers.”
While in Auckland, the Soareses and their party visited the construction site of the Auckland New Zealand Temple and the adjacent New Zealand Missionary Training Center. They saw the temple’s recently arrived cornerstone and received an update on the construction’s progress.
The following day, May 23, the Soareses and Nielsons received a traditional Maori welcome in Hamilton from the people of Ngaati Maahanga. They toured the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Center and visited the newly renovated Hamilton New Zealand Temple.
During a Thursday, May 26, young adult devotional in Brisbane, Elder Soares emphasized how the Savior Jesus Christ is the only source of true peace in the world.
“His gospel is a gospel of peace,” he said. “Can we imagine if the whole world knew Jesus Christ, and would draw closer to Him? He provides a solid anchor to our souls. As you come closer to Jesus Christ you will find the answers to your challenges and questions. Then you will shine the light of Christ to those who are around you who are in despair. Joy comes from and through Jesus Christ.”
Sister Soares encouraged the young adults to love and respect everyone, despite different beliefs or lifestyles. And she invited listeners to focus on the aspects of their faith that may need strengthening by doing more in intentional ways, such as scripture study, prayer or temple worship.
The devotional also had a question-and-answer session, with questions including how to study the scriptures more effectively, how to prepare for marriage, and how to follow Jesus Christ in a world full of distractions.
Prior to the devotional, the Soareses met with a group of pioneer Church members in the Australian state of Queensland.
“Meeting with them tonight touched my heart. They brought strength and faith to the Church and to us all,” said Elder Soares during the devotional, urging the young adults to “learn from them, and their legacy.”
And on Saturday, May 28, the Soareses participated in an evening devotional in Sydney for Latter-day Saints of all ages, with the meeting transmitted to all congregations across Australia in the Church’s first country-wide devotional broadcast.
Elder Soares encouraged the members of the Church to continue to gather together to worship, especially as countries and communities open up after the lockdowns and other restrictions caused by the pandemic.
“We are living in the last days in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. If we are not careful we can lose sight of the promises of our Father in Heaven, we can dim our light and become fearful. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only enduring way to peace.”
Referring to an April address by President Nelson, Elder Soares encouraged listeners to “ignite their positive, spiritual momentum. … Do the spiritual work to see miracles. God continues to be a God of miracles. Faith is necessary to see miracles. When we don’t know God, it’s hard to see the miracles in our life.”
Sister Soares shared the story of a mother who read the scriptures every day to her son, telling him: “The prophet said that if I read to you from the scriptures every day, I will never lose you. And I don’t want to lose you.” Sister Soares said the boy was Elder Nattress of the Pacific Area presidency.
Added Sister Soares: “I read the scriptures so I can receive revelation from God.”